Remember when fighting for change was an activist’s job? As humans, caring about social issues is only the right thing to do, but if you find yourself constantly refreshing social media and checking the news for emerging threats worldwide – you might be addicted to bad news, and like all addictions, it can be harmful.
No, we’re not saying ignorance is bliss. When tragedies keep us glued to our screens, it can cause compassion fatigue – a form of burnout that’s commonly found among caretakers and healthcare professionals. But the rise of social media activism has manifested an unfair expectation for everyone to stay on top of every single issue, leaving us feeling either guilty or exhausted.
So is compassion fatigue caring ‘too much’? According to GoodTherapy, the concept also known as second-hand shock or secondary stress reaction is “a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatised or under significant emotional duress”. Below are a few symptoms of compassion fatigue:
- Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless when hearing how others are suffering.
- Feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings.
- Having less empathy.
- Reacting sensitively or insensitively to tragedy.
- Constantly thinking about the suffering of others.
- Constantly blaming yourself or wondering how you could have done more.
- Downplaying your own accomplishments or success.
- Having unhealthy or destructive coping mechanisms.
- Not finding pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.
If you experience any of these signs, it’s time to take a break – your mind needs to rest, just like your body does. Here’s how you can cope with compassion fatigue and prevent burning out:
- Has Social Media Gotten Too Overwhelming?
- Have You Been Feeling Burned Out?
- Dealing With Stress During A Pandemic
- Digital Wellness: Developing A Healthier Relationship With Social Media
As the activist and writer, Audre Lorde, once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare”. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back because there’s an increasing number of people ready to carry on where you left off. You can’t stand up for social justice when you’re barely hanging on, so do what you need to do to stay positive, strong and healthy.
If you still feel overwhelmed, please seek help from a mental health professional.
What is burnout?
From a global pandemic to civil unrest, 2020 has been a stressful experience that feels long and excessive. (Am I right?) It doesn’t matter whether you work from home, are back in the office, studying or fighting for social justice – it has caused a majority of us to suffer from mental, physical and emotional exhaustion also known as burnout.
What are the symptoms?
If overwhelming events have left you feeling drained, down and disconnected from others – you’re probably suffering from burnout too. You might find yourself uninterested in what you’re doing, forgetting what you need to do (wait, why am I in the kitchen again?), easily irritated and always tired. Here are a few ways you can find motivation again.
How can I overcome it?
- Take a time-out
No work, no social media – apply for leave, sign out. You need a break from whatever’s causing you to burnout. Use this time to recharge your batteries and focus on yourself – not your assignment or creating the perfect Instagram infographic. Schedule frequent breaks during your day to breathe and relieve stress. This will allow you to be more focused and productive – working smarter, not harder.
- Get some rest
If you’ve been pulling an all-nighter studying or anxiously refreshing your timeline, you’ve got a lot of sleep to catch up on! Start clocking in 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night for at least a week. Find out more about sleep hygiene and how to make the most of your slumber here.
- Move your body
You’re probably groaning at the idea of a high intensity workout, but there are plenty of ways to get your heart pumping and blood flowing depending on how you feel. Dance, stretch or go for a walk – however you choose to move your body will help you relax your mind, boost your mood and your energy.
- Eat well
Ordering takeout has become easier than ever – with just a few taps, that extra-large pizza will be on its way to you and your favorite pjs. But the refined carbohydrates (most sugars and processed grains), can cause your mood and energy to crash. The stress and anxiety are already depleting your body of essential nutrients, so make sure you consume more nourishing food to boost your brain function, immune system, gut and hormones.
It can take a few weeks or even months to recover from burnout, but if you still feel anxious and depressed, please seek professional help.